When parents of minor children in Utah choose to divorce or legal separate, a court must determine the custody arrangement for the minor children going forward. Usually, the court will adopt a custody arrangement that has been agreed on by the parents. However, if the parents can’t agree, then the court will hold a trial, take evidence and decide physical custody (who the children will live with), parent-time (also known as “visitation”), and legal custody (decision-making authority) based on the “best interests of the children.” Every situation is unique, but you can expect the judge to choose one of the following four types of custody arrangements.
Sole Physical and Sole Legal Custody
Historically, this was the standard, but is becoming less common. One parent is chosen for the children to live with, and that same parent is given authority to make all the important decisions with respect to the children. The other parent gets standard parent-time (visitation) of one evening a week, every other weekend, half of the holidays, 4 weeks during the summer, and (hopefully) a voice, but not a choice, in making decisions regarding the children.
Sole/Primary Physical and Joint Legal Custody
Because of a fairly recent statutory preference for joint legal custody, this custody arrangement is probably the most common today. One parent is still designated as the parent who the children will primarily live with, but the other parent may get expanded parent-time where s/he may get one overnight every week, and an extended weekend every other weekend where s/he gets to keep the children until Monday morning, and half of the summer, in addition to half of the holidays. When it comes to decision making, both parents at least have to listen to each other and take each other’s opinions into account before any important decision is made regarding the children. If the parents can’t agree, then there must be a mechanism established to break the deadlock. This can range from designating one parent to “make the final decision,” to going to court and letting the judge decide.
Joint Physical and Joint Legal Custody
This is probably the second most common custody arrangement today. Under this arrangement, the children essentially have two homes that they split their time between on either a 50/50 basis, or something close to it, and decision-making authority is awarded to the parents on a joint basis as discussed in the immediately prior paragraph.
Split Physical Custody
On rare occasions, the court may decide that one or more children will be better off with one parent, while the other child[ren] will be better off with the other, and will award physical custody and parent-time accordingly. In a split custody arrangement, the parents will probably have joint legal custody over all their children, but the court can also give sole legal custody over a particular child to the parent who also has primary physical custody over that child.
Get Legal Guidance on Child Custody Arrangements
Custody of their minor children is usually the most important issue for divorcing or legally separating parents, can be complicated, and is often a source of considerable disagreement and contention between the parents. As a result, you’ll probably want to get good legal advice and assistance.
At J.D. Milliner and Associates, we have extensive experience in Utah divorce and family law. With offices located in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City, and in Orem, Utah, our attorneys work with clients throughout the Wasatch Front, and the Wasatch Back, and you can count on us to provide the legal advice and support you need to secure the best reasonable result for you and your children. For a free consultation with a Utah child custody attorney, contact our offices at 801-505-5600 today.
NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Contact an attorney to obtain legal advice.